Teenagers from Saudi Arabia and the UK join forces to make a vital contribution to environmental research
This summer, thirteen young people aged 15 to 17 took part in the Earthwatch ‘Inspiring the Next Generation’ programme, sponsored by energy company Saudi Aramco. The programme offers teenagers from the UK and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the opportunity of a lifetime to carry out hands-on scientific research alongside leading scientists on Earthwatch projects.
Teenage volunteer, 'Inspiring the Next Generation' programme
Participants were selected through a competitive application process. The successful male applicants joined Earthwatch project ’South Africa’s scavenger species’ in the stunning Pilanesberg National Park near Johannesburg, while the girls travelled to Costa Rica to take part in ‘Costa Rican coffee from community to cup’.
In South Africa the youngsters helped scientists monitor populations of vital scavenger species, such as brown hyaena and vulture, as well as helping to promote a successful and sustainable approach to reducing human-wildlife conflict outside protected areas. The team undertook tasks such as setting camera traps to capture images of scavengers (and some other inquisitive creatures!), and night-time spotlighting surveys to monitor populations of hyaena and other carnivores.
Jonathan Wan, a participant from the UK observed, “I feel much more in touch with environmental issues and have realised the importance of looking after species which most people may not know about, yet play an essential role in the ecosystem.”
Meanwhile in Costa Rica, the female team worked side by side with local farmers and scientists conducting research on coffee farms to maintain and improve conditions for wildlife. They also visited a local coffee processing plant owned by the cooperative, and learnt about environmental and social issues affecting production. This team were kept busy with research tasks including coffee bean counts, insect trapping and identification, and leaf sampling.
The Inspiring the next generation programme not only contributes to crucial scientific research, but also offers valuable personal development opportunities for the teenagers, and helps to foster understanding between different cultures. Saudi participant Reem Alsadoun explains “Every day I learnt lots of new things about different cultures but the greatest part of that is how we can experience diversity to realise that deep down we are all the same.”
Earthwatch volunteers play a vital role in helping scientists collect data, which would be impossible to do without many pairs of hands. Projects also enable volunteers to witness environmental issues first-hand, and understand how their own actions can impact the environment for better or worse. Nardeen Alkhowaiter, a participant on the Costa Rica team says “the expedition did more than enrich my academic studies. It connected everything I learned in school to the real world. It's almost like learning everything over again.”